//Wandering Jordan
Karak Castle between the trees

Wandering Jordan

I think the concept of wandering is hard for most folks to truly digest. Sure, we read about it in books, and maybe, just maybe wander around in a park or city for a bit, but most of the time we have an agenda, however loosely planned. Yet Wandering—true, aimless wandering—that we give the unexpected the greatest opportunity to work in our lives. And while I had a general idea of going form North to South, I really haven’t been this empty of motive in a long, long time regarding where I go. It’s been surprisingly challenging, given that both my hosts and those picking me up hitchhiking expect a convincing answer to “Where are you going?” Just saying, “Jnoob” (south) doesn’t really help much. Saying the next town or village (unless it’s a big city) doesn’t really help much either, as I’m not really “going” there (unless the Universe takes me). This has created a lot of bafflement in my hosts…I haven’t yet figured out the best answer. (Though I did recently learn the word for wandering…may be I should use it…)

Opinions are all over the place regarding politics. Most seem to want stability—at any cost. One or two in Amman were unhappy at the fact that they didn’t have much freedom. No one likes Bush. Everyone who follows U.S. politics likes Clinton. No one has heard of Bernie Sanders. Many are happy that there are no problems between Israel and Jordan and that border is relatively open. Some have told me that Saddam Hussein was important to the region for the stability he created—he tolerated no insurgent bullshit and for those loving security, that’s a good thing. Most don’t like Assad though—they know he’s killing his own people (many in Jordan have friends and Family in Syria).

Getting used to the intense energy this culture can have can take some time. Outbursts or words and volume are common here—even valued. Being a bit of a sponge, I’ve found myself starting to do it occasionally too—if talking normally didn’t get any effect. I hope that’s not a habit that gets too ingrained!

I left Nitil rather late in the afternoon and again, didn’t even have to put my thumb out to get a ride. Just walking down the road in full gear causes cars to stop. I didn’t get very far, but that was the intention. Compared to what I’m used to, Jordan is downright tiny—one could hitch from North to South in a mere day. So keeping things slowed down wasn’t a bad thing.

Dhiban wasn’t the most beautiful city in the world—if it weren’t for being asked in for breakfast and lunch I would never have spent much time there. As it was, a full half a day was spent in the company of the lovely people below. The man on the right is the owner of the business below and was a delightful host. He greeted me as I walked past, invited me to sit with him for a while and then, after talking to me for while, brought me upstairs to his home. (Sorry for the image quality—I seem to be having some issues with one of my lenses…)

Family in Dhiban

Strangely enough, I found myself avoiding something I know I love—sleeping outside (i.e. not being hosted). I’m not sure what was going on about that…maybe doing it for the first time in a non-Western nation (I’m assuming Central and South America count as ‘Western’)? It’s also true that I’m unusual enough that I’m always being watched, so slipping into the trees unnoticed with a big pack isn’t as easy as it might seem. Yet when I finally came down to it and found a nice little stand of olive trees outside Dhiban, it was well worth it. Being hosted mean constant interaction and constant attention to the needs of physical modesty. In short, it’s exhausting. There’s also a TON of tobacco smoking going on here (which I’m allergic to). Staying inside can be really challenging for me. Sleeping off in a grove of trees gives me the alone time I need to recalibrate myself. It also has the added effect of letting me lounge around at my leisure (depending on the spot picked). it may not look like much, but this little olive grove afforded me some much need rest, both physically and mentally.

Sleeping in an Olive Grove

Two funny things about Jordan—noise really carries and there never seems to be somewhere where people are not (at least not yet). So the only really unnerving thing about sleeping here was that I kept hearing people as if they were right on top of me.

From Dhiban I made it to the beautiful city of Karak. The man who brought me here was wanting to travel Jordan with me in his van. <sigh> Aside from the fact that I want to meet as many different people as possible, the guy was married and living out of his van as he distributed goods throughout the country. Not a good combination. He gave me his phone number and dropped me off at the top of the city, right in front of their iconic castle. An amazing and beautiful place. I was immediately confronted by a guy wanting me to either buy lunch or rent a room. I hate being seen as a commodity, so even though I was feeling ready for a cheap room in exchange for a chance to explore the city, I turned him down. (The room wasn’t cheap, there was no wifi, and the guy was downright sour.) As a result, I walked out of the city and right into someone who showed me where to get a great sunset view of the citadel. Truly beautiful.

Karak Castle

(better photos to come)

Unfortunately, staying there to shoot the evening light left me with very little time to find a place to sleep. I took off down some winding road hoping it would yield something of interest. It did, but it also seemed that the areas I was considering sleeping were also widely used by youth wanting to let off steam, and not wanting to risk being woken up in the middle of the night by raucous youths, I kept going. As a result, I had a hard, thorny, windy night on the site of a hill. Not much sleep or peace was had. The wind was super intense, the land super rocky, and I was constantly afraid that my air mattress would slip into the thorns. At least the view was gorgeous.

Looking down on Karak

This was definitely my hardest night so far. I was cold and didn’t sleep much. By morning I was out of food and grumpy. Even with more nice views:

Karak Castle between the trees

Still, the people were still welcoming and I soon found myself again over-fed (though I also bought a little food this time). Before leaving town I was again caffeinated (tea) and had some kind of fake henna painted on my hands from a little girl at one of the homes that had invited me in. (Even now, a week later, my nails are still orange!)

All for now. More to come.